2010-11 extreme weather event

Flood plumes and cyclones hit the Great Barrier Reef over the 2010-11 summer, causing a range of flow-on effects to the marine environment and adjacent coastal communities.

The results of assessments of the physical damage to coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are presented in GBRMPA's report - Impacts of tropical cyclone Yasi on the Great Barrier Reef.

GBRMPA worked with key partners to implement the Extreme Weather Response Program to assess the impact on the environment, communities and industries.

This information informed industry actions and management responses, and improved our understanding of extreme weather that is predicted to be more frequent under climate change.

Flooding

The summer of 2010-11 was the second wettest on record for Australia, and for southeast Queensland rainfall was 300-400 per cent higher than normal. This unusually intense rainfall caused extensive flooding in many coastal areas of southern Queensland, including several Great Barrier Reef catchments. A large expanse of the inshore Great Barrier Reef Region south of Mackay was exposed to persistent flood plumes from the Fitzroy, Burnett and Mary Rivers.

Cyclones

Cyclone Yasi, one of the largest and most powerful cyclones to affect Australia since records began, crossed the Queensland coast near Mission Beach on 3 February 2011. The coast and adjacent areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park were exposed to wind gusts up to 285 kilometres per hour. The cyclone's wind boundaries were extensive, with gale force winds affecting 26 per cent (89,090 km2) and destructive winds affecting 13 per cent (45,768 km2) of the Marine Park. Cyclone Yasi had been preceded by cyclone Anthony, which crossed the coast near Bowen on 30 January 2011 as a Category 2 storm.

Action by industries and communities

Many industries and communities took action to ensure the Great Barrier Reef had the best chance of recovering after the 2010-11 summer of extreme weather.

  • Following reports of dramatic increases in dugong and turtle deaths, key Traditional Owner groups voluntarily reduced traditional hunting activities in affected areas.
  • The marine aquarium collection industry activated their Coral Stress Response Plan and placed a voluntary moratorium on collecting of sensitive species in affected reef locations.
  • Aquarium collectors played a key role in assessing impacts from flood plumes in the southern parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery worked with the GBRMPA and Fisheries Queensland to identify strategies to improve the ecological, economic and social resilience of the fishery after extreme weather events.

GBRMPA also used educational material and best practices to remind people out on the water how they can protect dugong and turtles following the 2010-11 summer of extreme weather events.

 

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